Debussy's autograph manuscript of Les Papillons, composed most likely in 1881, is now in the collection of the Music Division of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. Drawing upon this unique resource, this beautifully designed publication includes the first Performing Edition of Les Papillons, transcribed by Marie Rolf, as well as a facsimile of the Debussy manuscript. An essay by Rolf describes the provenance of the manuscript and the editorial practices followed in the transcription.
This setting of a poem by Théophile Gautier has been virtually unknown since Debussy's time. The song received its world premiere only in 1962, some 80 years after its composition, at New York's Town Hall; on that occasion, conductor Wilfrid Pelletier observed in a program note that "to my knowledge, this song has never been mentioned by any biographer, nor sung in public." More recently, in February 2004, the work received a rare performance--by acclaimed soprano Renée Fleming--as part of the recital "The Art of French Song," at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.
In making Les Papillons readily accessible to today's performing artists, this special edition ensures and enhances the reputation of this early song by a master composer.